Pupovac: SDSS Has Not Yet Decided Whether to Leave Ruling Coalition

By 11 September 2019

ZAGREB, September 11, 2019 - The head of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, said on Wednesday that the party had not yet decided whether to leave or stay in the ruling coalition. He also explained his statement in which he likened present-day Croatia to the WWII-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which was condemned by the government and coalition partners, the president and large sections of the public.

"The SDSS Presidency is meeting today to discuss what we have discussed with our coalition partners, including the prime minister. It is up to the Presidency to decide what to do," Pupovac told a press conference in the Parliament building.

He announced further talks with the coalition partners to identify and remove "all obstacles to the political stability of the country and the coalition and to the normality of the Croatian society". The answer to the question of whether the SDSS will stay in the ruling coalition will be known after that, he added.

Commenting on demands for him to apologise for his NDH statement, Pupovac said he has been called different names in the past 30 years and has never asked for an apology.

"I am not a Chetnik, but I will never ask for an apology from those who think or say that I am, from those who classify me as a criminal and murderer. I can only say that I am not and will never be that and will never ask them for an apology," Pupovac said.

He added that he would neither ask for an apology those who classified him as a collaborator of the government in Belgrade.

Asked why he never condemned statements about the Croatian government coming from Belgrade and Serbia, Pupovac said he could not be held responsible for those messages. "I am not a whipping boy for the poor relations between Croatia and Serbia and for the messages that are sent," he said, adding that he was trying to ensure on both sides that there were no such messages any more.

The SDSS leader also commented on his statement that Croatia is a factor of instability in the region. "I gave that statement to Radio Sarajevo and it contained an addition. Croatia is not generally a factor of instability because every country has its own elements of instability. Unfortunately, at the time I made the statement, Croatia had a serious problem with the state of inter-ethnic relations, hate and violence against members of different groups, primarily ethnic Serbs. Other countries have deeper and more serious foundations of instability than Croatia but it has a situation in which it happened and that, together with historical revisionism, affects the situation in the region. The situation in which I made that statement was dramatic," said Pupovac.

Asked about hate messages sprayed on a road sign at the entrance to his place of birth, Pupovac said that he did not intend to comment on them.

At the start of the news conference, Pupovac read out a statement in which he commented on his statement regarding a comparison between Croatia and the NDH.

"Anyone can ask me to distance myself from the condemnation of the NDH and from evident attempts to restore or downplay the Ustasha ideology in today's Croatia, but no one should expect me to do that. I am willing, and have been, to cooperate with the broadest circle of political and non-political actors in an effort to make Croatia a country of peace for everyone living or wishing to live in, a country of tolerance for everyone and a country striving towards prosperity and a better future, instead of a bad past," Pupovac said.

He said that there was potential in the government and the ruling coalition, in the parliament and a significant part of parliamentary groups, and that he believed in the readiness for cooperation and strong action against intolerance, violence and extreme revisionism.

"No one needs to ask me not to compare present-day Croatia to the undemocratic NDH and its criminal Ustasha ideology because I know the difference very well, that's why I've been politically active for three decades," Pupovac said after not addressing the public for two weeks.

"A lot of people were particularly disturbed by my concern about the growing hate towards Serbs. They were particularly disturbed by my fear that if it continues to grow and turns into physical violence it could restore in current-day Croatia the state of hate characteristic only of the period of the quisling NDH," he said and added that even two weeks after that statement, reactions to it had not calmed down, which encouraged him.

"My concern and fear are less intense now than they were more than two weeks ago because never before have so many influential voices condemned bringing today's Croatia in any connection with the Ustasha-led NDH. Regardless of the differences caused by the echoes of those voices, I would like to think that they are all an expression of a deep moral sense that today's Croatia should not and must not have any connections with the ideology of hate and violence, and that if they do exist, they need to be severed," he underscored.

Pupovac called on everyone who reacted based on that moral feeling to jointly remove the Ustasha letter 'U' from the facades of our buildings, adding that uniforms and insignia with the Ustasha salute 'For the Homeland Ready' should be put away and that penalties should be imposed if it is chanted or written and accompanied by death threats.

He called on everyone to "stop being blind and deaf" to messages such as 'Kill Serbs!' and to condemn any incitement to violence.

"I call for an end to historical revisionism that goes to such an extent that members of the quisling or occupying forces killed at the end of World War II are given state and religious honours while the victims of the Ustasha concentration camp in Jasenovac, the death camp in Jadovno or the Glina church, are denied and memory of them is insulted. If we do that, we will sever any connection with that dishonourable period and even more dishonourable regime and no one will be able to, either out of sincere or manipulative motives, insult the moral feelings of us as members of the political community that we belong to," Pupovac concluded.

More SDSS news can be found in the Politics section.